Movie Review (Counter): The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Aubrey Ward III
I'm not telling you what to see. I'm not telling you what not to see. I'm just sharing my experience and opinion on the movie, tv show or play that I have seen. I'm merely an advisor. Ultimately, you will have to go with your own gut and decide if you'll buy the ticket or not.View all articles by Aubrey Ward III
Like so many of you I was intrigued by the previews announcing a reboot of the Spider-Man film series. It wasn't too long ago that Sam Raimi's trilogy, featuring Toby Maguire in the red and blue suit, caused a sensation in cineplexes around the world. Now we have The Amazing Spider-Man promising an alternative take on the comic book and pop culture icon. Let me start with the accolades.
With Great Power Comes Great Spandex: Spider-Man / Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield)
The Amazing Spider-Man was a good movie. It truly is of a different shade than the Sam Raimi movies. Spider-Man (2002) and the two sequels that followed leaned more toward a vibrant and colorful adventure vibe. The Amazing Spider-Man is a tad edgier and subdued than the original trilogy. Mr. Garfield's version of “Peter Parker” is a less of an archetypal nerd and more of a lone wolf who takes his pictures, scores high grades and rolls around on his skateboard. Though he still gets picked on by Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka) and his goons this version of Peter seems a little bit less of a bully target than Mr. Maguire's “Peter”. He has a great relationship with his aunt and uncle but also has an unresolved anguish due to being mysteriously dumped by his parents. Though mom and dad ended up killed in a plane crash Peter still carries that feeling of abandonment. I guess with no specific reason for his transfer to Uncle Ben's the best Peter can come up with is that his folks just didn't want him anymore. This latest incarnation of Peter Parker appeared to be a case of a brilliant mind wrapped in a stinky blanket of low self esteem.
When Peter becomes Spider-Man he is essentially the Neighborhood Wallcrawler that we all know and love. He dishes out the crimefighting with a skillful combination of acrobatics, webbing and wisecracks. The outfit is fairly similar to one perfected in the original film trilogy. It was a great design so I'm glad they didn't tinker with it too much. Purists will cheer about the return of Peter's mechanical webshooters. Wow. Remember the grief that spilled over the first movie when Peter was given biological webbing that shot out of his wrists? And though the new film is a little more somber Mr. Parker's patented sense of humor is still intact.
Swapping out Mary Jane Watson for Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) was a nice and solid change. I adored Kirsten Dunst as Peter's red headed muse. I wouldn't say that Gwen is better than Mary Jane just different. Gwen is a girl with a cop father, Captain Stacy (Denis Leary). This helps to strengthen her resolve when things start running amok. Even before Spidey and The Lizard begin to paint the town in a myriad of colors Gwen exhibits her inner strength such as in an early scene where she breaks up a fight between Peter and Flash. Ms. Stone's “Gwen” walks a fine line between independent heroine and damsel in distress but she ultimately leans closer to the kind of girl that would face down The Lizard instead of run away squealing. I mean, okay, she still squeals but she will face down a villain like The Lizard while squealing. That's still a decent level of toughness there.
I'm In Love With A Man....A Spider-Man!: Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield)
Uncle Ben seems pretty much unchanged while Aunt May gets a fascinating makeover. Instead of a white bun Ms. Field's “Aunt May” wears her curly, black locks down.
Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) turned out to be a great pick for the first reboot villain. Dr. Connors is the classic sympathetic bad guy who doesn't mean to become evil. Through pure intentions of granting the world a great benefit of science he becomes a victim of his own genius and is dragged down a path of destruction that will leave behind all sorts of collateral damage. Dr. Connors transformation serves as a fine transition for Peter from angry vigilante to honorable superhero. It's where that point about “responsibility” truly comes to play and Spider-Man is born. Too bad he has the share the womb with a maniacal reptilian humanoid that wants to create a world of people in his scaly image.
Visually, yes, The Amazing Spider-Man is beautiful to behold. Though it is not vivid as the original film the “Spidey stunts” are quite lovely with Mr. Garfield (and his stunt crew) flipping, kicking, punching, somersaulting and web-swinging all over NYC. However, I can't say that the Real 3D and IMAX 3D screenings were completely amazing. If I had to grade the 3D effects I would grant The Amazing Spider-Man a “B”. Blame it on Avatar (2009) for setting the bar for what a 3D film should be and the bar is just so dang high, it seems, because I have yet to watch a 3D film that comes close to what Avatar pulled. The 3D on The Amazing Spider-Man is the typical routine where the third dimensional perspective only seems to pop during the action sequences. The final battle with The Lizard and the “swinging” finale benefit from the 3D tech along with a few other scenes but the majority of the film felt terribly 2D.
When the high of seeing The Amazing Spider-Man wore off I felt a strange type of disappointment. I realized later that I felt bummed because the reboot just seemed too similar to Spider-Man. And I know, it should feel like Spider-Man. This his origin story and his origin is legend; boy gets bit by radioactive spider, boy gains super powers, boy uses powers for selfish reasons, uncle is killed due to boy not using powers to stop a bad guy, boy learns lesson and becomes a super hero. It is a great story and I haven't yet gotten tired of it since I keep going to the movies and watching the cartoons based on Spider-Man.
A Cure Or A Curse?: Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans)
Then I thought about Batman Begins (2005) and how that rebooted the Batman film series. Frankly, after the fiasco of Batman & Robin (1997) I applauded DC and Warner Brothers for going back to the drawing board and allowing Christopher Nolan's stoic, epic and sophisticated take on Batman to come to light. It was a fine reinterpretation of a classic character. It was still Bruce Wayne and Alfred and The Joker but in a more realistic world that just gave the old legend a fresh coat of paint. I wondered to myself if Spider-Man really needed such a reboot? I know lots of people hated Spider-Man 3 but I don't know if it warranted a complete overhaul of the film series. I also wondered about the countless other Marvel characters that would probably rock the theaters with their marvelous origin stories just like Spidey, The X-Men and The Avengers. Instead, we have a big budget repeat of a story we've already seen depicted in film and television countless times.
The Amazing Spider-Man left me with a split vote. It is a well done adventure film and one of the better summer blockbusters of 2012 thanks to a nice mix of intelligence, drama and action. Granted, there are some significant changes that do set this new movie apart from the previous one but not by much. The film follows the same path of the origin. You can walk it in a different pair of shoes and paint the path a different color but it still leads through the same forest. If I didn't know squat about Spider-Man I would be completely drooling over this movie but I do so I'm not. My hope is that sitting through the origin again will pay off when the second episode in the reboot series debuts with an all new and all different Spidey story that will truly rock the status quo of this legendary character. I'm definitely eager to find out if the new focus on Peter's parents will mean that there is more to his transformation than just amazing luck.
Stay tuned for the bonus scene that is thankfully midway through the credits instead of all the way at the end. However, I didn't particularly like this bonus scene. It's weird, abrupt and seems more like a throwaway scene than an integral tie to the next film. But it is there so might as well check it out for the heck of it and then you and your friends can have fun guessing who the “man in the shadows” was.
Rhymes With: Spider-Man (2002), Batman Begins (2005), X-Men (2000), Kick Ass (2010), Push (2009), Thor (2011), Ghost Rider (2007)
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